April 24-30, 2023
Although Jesus Christ came to bring “peace [and] good will toward men” (Luke 2:14), there was “a division among the people because of him” (John 7:43). People who witnessed the same events came to very different conclusions about who Jesus was. Some concluded, “He is a good man,” while others said, “He deceiveth the people” (John 7:12). When He healed a blind man on the Sabbath, some insisted, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day,” while others asked, “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” (John 9:16). Yet despite all the confusion, those who searched for truth recognized the power in His words, for “never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). When the Jews asked Jesus to “tell us plainly” whether he was the Christ, He revealed a principle that can help us distinguish truth from error: “My sheep hear my voice,” He said, “and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:24, 27).
And who are those “sheep”? Those sheep are believers who were not part of the goats. These belong to Him and are capable of hearing His voice.
One of the problems is nobody can come to understand the Gospel “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Jesus said in verse 39 that the will of the Father is “that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” He said the “my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.” And in verse 65, he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
Continuing from John 10:27, Jesus said that those who do not believe “are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.” First Corinthians 2:13-16 says,
13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
In other words, it’s not based on a person’s smarts or unique insight that allows him or her to understand the Gospel. Rather, it’s based on the Spirit of God that can make sense of these things. What’s amazing is what Paul writes in Romans 8:28-30:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Notice the sequence. Those “who have been called according to his purpose” have been predestined, justified and glorified. Jesus knows His own! It’s not something that a person can conjure up. How this works is certainly a mystery from our perspective, but the Bible teaches this is true.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
As I live the truths taught by Jesus Christ, I will come to know they are true.
The Jews marveled that Jesus knew so much, since He was not learned (see verse 15)—at least, not in ways they were familiar with. In Jesus’s response, He taught a different way of knowing truth that is available to everyone, regardless of education or background. According to John 7:14–17, how can you come to know that the doctrine Jesus taught is true? How has this process helped you develop your testimony of the gospel?
The way we can determine true doctrine is by knowing who Jesus really is. I like to start with the resurrection of Jesus. If this event took place and Jesus did what He promised to do in John 2:19 (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-5), then He proved His deity by what His actions. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, it is huge. And it proves that what He teaches according to the Gospels is true.
The Savior’s mercy is available to all.
When speaking about the Savior’s interaction with the woman taken in adultery, Elder Dale G. Renlund said: “Surely, the Savior did not condone adultery. But He also did not condemn the woman. He encouraged her to reform her life. She was motivated to change because of His compassion and mercy. The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible attests to her resultant discipleship: ‘And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name’ [see John 8:11, footnote c]” (“Our Good Shepherd,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 30).
This is interesting because twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball said that the woman did not have the ability to truly repent and therefore she was not forgiven of her adultery at that time. Consider what Kimball wrote on page 165 in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness:
No Forgiveness Without Repentance
This connection between effort and the repentance which attracts the Lord’s forgiveness is often not understood. In my childhood, Sunday School lessons were given to us on the 8th chapter of John wherein we learned of the woman thrown at the feet of the Redeemer for judgment. My sweet Sunday School teacher lauded the Lord for having forgiven the woman. She did not understand the impossibility of such an act. In my years since then I have repeatedly heard people praise the Lord for his mercy in having forgiven the adulteress. This example has been used numerous times to show how easily one can be forgiven for gross sin. But did the Lord forgive the woman? Could he forgive her? There seems to be no evidence of forgiveness.
Then Kimball went on to quote Alma 11:37 from the Book of Mormon, which says, “Ye cannot be saved in your sins,” then added, “It was this same Lord Jesus Christ who made the laws, and he must observe them.” Somehow, Kimball must not have paid attention to the JST citation given in this lesson, as Smith added words not found in the original manuscripts in verse 11: “And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name.” This seems to be in direct contradiction with what Kimball taught, as Smith seemed to have thought that the woman believed in his name.
A final note is that this passage was not written in the original autograph of the Gospel of John. This is why modern translations have this note just above John 7:53: “[The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.]” This is the strength of modern translations, as they attempt to be brutally honest with unique texts not found in the originals, including Mark 16:9ff, 1 John 5:7-8, and this one. Because Mormonism makes such a big deal about Article 8 (the Bible is true as far as it is translated correctly), I wonder why there was not a mention of this in this lesson.
When have you felt like the woman, receiving mercy instead of condemnation from the Savior? When have you been like the scribes and Pharisees, accusing or judging others even when you are not without sin? (see John 8:7). What else can you learn from the way the Savior interacted with the scribes and Pharisees and the woman caught in adultery? What do you learn about the Savior’s forgiveness as you read these verses?
Unlike Kimball, I believe Jesus had every ability to immediately forgive the woman of all her sins! He had compassion on people and had their best interest in mind. I think back to Mark 2:5 where Jesus said , “Son, your sins are forgiven.” He didn’t say, “Son, if you stop sinning, your sins will be forgiven.” No, it is past tense and states how Jesus forgave the man just as this woman was forgiven (if this story really happened). I have found that most Latter-day Saint to whom I show Kimball’s assessment seems to disagree with him as well.
If we have faith, God can manifest Himself in our afflictions.
What does John 9:1–3 teach you about the challenges and afflictions of life? As you read John 9, ponder how the “works of God [were] made manifest” in the life of the man born blind. How have they been made manifest in your life—including in your afflictions?
To me, John 9:1-3 takes away from the possibility of the preexistence. After all, this doctrine says that spirits from this state are born into mortality based on their state of righteousness. One church manual explained:
“QUESTION Then what determines where and when you are born? ANSWER We don’t know in detail all the factors that influence the circumstances into which we are born, but the prophets have clearly taught that the basic rule of obedience to law as the prerequisite for blessings holds true in this matter as well. QUESTION Meaning that the kind of life we lived in the premortal existence influenced where we are now? ANSWER Yes.”The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles Religion 211-212, 1979, 254-255.
Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the First Presidency, explained:
“All of the myriads of mortals who have been born on this earth chose the Father’s plan and fought for it. Many of us also made covenants with the Father concerning what we would do in mortality. In ways that have not been revealed, our actions in the spirit world influence us in mortality.”“The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1993, 72.
According to the passage, Jesus said that “neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Rather, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Yet the doctrine of preexistence in Mormonism seems to show that actions done in a previous state (preexistence) somehow did affect a person’s place of birth and circumstances. John 9:1-3 contradicts such a teaching.
Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.
Even if you aren’t familiar with sheep and shepherding, reading John 10, where the Savior says, “I am the good shepherd,” can teach you important truths about Him. To find these truths, look for phrases that describe what a good shepherd is like and then consider how those phrases apply to the Savior. Below are some examples:
Verse 3: “He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them.”
Verse 11: He “giveth his life for the sheep.”
Verse 16: “There shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
Here are some additional questions to help you ponder this chapter: How is Jesus like a door? (see verses 7–9). How has He given you “life … more abundantly”? (verse 10). When have you felt that He knows you personally? (see verse 14). How do you recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice? (see verse 27).
These are more verses to support the idea that Jesus calls those who are His own. He knows them by name and they follow Him.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
To help your family understand Jesus’s teaching in John 7:24, you might show them something that looks one way on the outside but is different on the inside. Or family members could share experiences that taught them not to judge by outward appearances. You could also list qualities of each family member that aren’t visible to the eye (see also 1 Samuel 16:7; Thomas S. Monson, “See Others as They May Become,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 68–71).
In the NIV, it reads, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a righteous judgment.” When I do evangelism with Latter-day Saints in public settings, I often hear Matthew 7:1 cited to criticize my disagreement with Mormonism, The verse says in the KJV, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Of course, this verse is taken out of context, for the context shows that hypocritical judging is what is condemned, not just mere judging. John 7:24 is a wonderful way to show that Jesus is not downgrading all “judging.” Thus, if a believer is going to make a judgment, it is important to “make a righteous judgment.”
Perhaps the Latter-day Saint who is reading this will realize that just because someone has convictions that Mormonism is not true, it is not against the Bible to make that judgement known. There are many occasions in the Bible where believers do “judge righteous judgment.” Of course, 1 Peter 3:16 says the Christian must use gentleness and respect in giving answers to everyone. And Ephesians says that we must speak the truth in love.
What does it mean to be a “servant of sin”? (see also Moroni 7:11). What truths taught by Jesus can make us free?
Jesus says that those who sin are slaves to sin. What despair! Yet, as he goes on to say, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Only the person who trusts in Jesus alone can be made free from sin. As Romans 6:18 says, the Christian who has been set free from sin has become a slave to righteousness. Verse 20 goes on to say, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” Verses 22-23 then state, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This lesson contains important verses for the Latter-day Saint to consider. I’m glad the church decided to include the entire New Testament in their lessons this year, though obviously much of the content has had to be skipped to be formatted into the short lesson format. For instance, a great opportunity to describe Jesus’s deity was missed in the latter part of John 8. In verse 58, Jesus told the Jews “before Abraham was, I am.” This is a direct reference to Exodus 3:14 where Moses asked God, “Who shall I sent me?” He was told, “I am who I am. . . I am has sent me to you.” It is this claim to Jesus being equal in authority with God the Father that caused the Jews to want to kill Jesus.
Another passage that was not referenced in this week’s lesson was the Pharisees’ investigation of the healing done by Jesus at the Pool of Siloam recorded in John 9:13-34. Their complaint? Jesus healed on the Sabbath, a big no-no. This is the reason they claimed in verse 16 that Jesus was not from God. Yet isn’t the Sabbath one of those commands that is so highly stressed in Mormonism?
The emphasis on Jesus and His ability to forgive sins–even of an adulterous woman–is certainly a major part of the story of the Gospel of John. I only think that Mormonism’s leaders have ignored the ability for Jesus to forgive sins based on faith alone and instead have emphasized the necessity for a person to keep all of God’s commandments, an impossible task. My hope for the Latter-day Saint is to read the Gospel accounts for what they teach, not for what the LDS leadership teaches. Only when a person has a relationship with the Jesus of the Gospels is it possible to be set free from all sins.